Motel room meth lab
He was quiet and clean-cut. He had been staying at the Budget Inn on Fain Road in North Charleston for about six months. He was a construction worker, and his boss picked him up for work every day.
That's how motel management described the man in room 132, where an active methamphetamine lab was discovered Wednesday shortly before 10 a.m.
North Charleston police were responding to a tip regarding a suspect with outstanding warrants from the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services when they happened upon the lab, Maj. Coyle Kinard said.
The man was arrested without incident and taken to a hospital as a precaution for exposure to chemicals, Kinard said.
Adjacent rooms were evacuated, and an agent from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a white hazardous materials suit emptied the room of its contents. The North Charleston Fire Department stood by with a hazmat unit and engine. EMS also was on the scene.
Police could not confirm the extent of the operation or whether methamphetamine was being sold from the motel, Kinard said.
Police have charged Guy Alan Moreland, 49, of Summerville with manufacturing methamphetamine.
Wednesday's arrest came on the heels of a significant meth bust and drug dealer round-up in the Upstate. Surprise raids began Tuesday, and the joint law enforcement effort led to the arrest of 28 people, according to Attorney General Henry McMaster.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant often made in makeshift labs in homes, hotels and even cars. Chuvalo Truesdell, public information officer for the DEA Atlanta Field Division, said labs are extremely dangerous because of the volatile and toxic chemicals used to make the drug, including ether, gas and lithium from batteries.
"Those folks passing recipes around aren't chemists," he said. "They don't say a spark could send the place up in flames."
After a lab is discovered, local authorities contact the DEA to request a cleanup. The DEA, in turn, calls out a service that specializes in clearing hazardous sites. Carpeting, wallboard and fabric can absorb the chemicals.
This would be the third such request this month to originate from Charleston County, said Sue Allen, resident agent in charge of the DEA Charleston Resident Office.
Cleanup can be particularly difficult for apartment buildings or hotels because labs can put the whole structure at risk, Truesdell said. Meth labs can be noticed by the chemical odor and by the suspects' smoking outside, he said.
Assistant motel manager Nick Peto watched as a DEA agent placed plastic hampers, Mason jars of pink and white solutions and bleach bottles outside the room.
"We'll have to strip out and clean the room professionally," he said. "Something like this has never happened before."
Meth lab activity
Since October 2007, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has received 24 requests for the cleanup of methamphetamine labs in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
CHARLESTON: Seven (not including Wednesday's request)